Derek James Giles
I met Bhante Saranapala many years ago through a family connection. I was immediately taken by his engaging nature. Each time we met subsequently we would chat about a range of topics ; among them family, Buddhism, his work in Canada and current affairs. I am not a Buddhist and have never experienced prosletizing during my conversations or indeed in my friendship with Bhante. On a recent visit to the temple for a family Dane, Bhante caught my ear to explain that he’d coined a new word which expressed his initiative to make Canada a more mindful and kinder nation. “Kindfulness” He told me the idea had simmered in his mind for some time then one day materialized in a Tim Hortons coffee shop over a double double. Bhante said he’d been conducting kindfulness programs for many years in the GTA, across Canada, North America and internationally. The name “kindfulness” was born out of a friendly conversation he had three years ago with his friend Michael Weldon. They were enjoying a coffee when Michael remarked “ Bhante you always talk about mindfulness and kindness and other wonderful values that could be appreciated by others and they are good for mental health!” Bhante replied, “ then Michael, how about I call Canada a mindful and kind nation?” Michael had happily cheered him up. From that moment on he started calling Canada “ A Mindful and Kind Nation” ………at Tim Hortons no less….what better a Canadian a venue could you script for this to happen? That moment was the genesis of the Kindful Canada Symposium. Last year Bhante arranged the first Symposium at The Beanfield Centre and this year the Kindful Canada Symposium was held at the International Centre. On September 22nd 2018 , the 2nd annual Kindful Canada Symposium was held at The International Centre in Toronto. It was a day listening to speakers whose expertise ranged from Medicine, Neuroscience, Community Policing, Motivational speaking, writing & filmography to family counseling. Each in turn related their personal experiences to being kindful ; to being grateful ; promoting positive physical & mental fitness : promoting goodwill and harmony through speech action and thought . Certain speakers were the beneficiaries of personal counseling from Bhante for which they were overwhelmingly grateful and of which they spoke highly. The venue was ideal for the occasion. Acres of free parking , a wonderful space inside , sized perfectly to provide the appropriate intimacy for speakers and audience alike. Adjacent to this hall was a space allocated for exhibitors and across the concourse an eatery where a nutritious lunch could be enjoyed. With such a diverse group of interesting speakers the morning passed quickly. I would however have preferred to hear Dr. Farb’s presentation earlier in the day when my focus was better. His “in depth talk” required sustained concentration which I found challenging in the late afternoon. Perhaps the less scientifically based talks could have been scheduled later in the day. In contrast, the group meditation session by Bhante which concluded the programme, was perfectly timed. It was an opportunity to relax and take in the meaning of the symposium in a quiet setting.
Attendance for the day significantly surpassed that of last years and I left feeling that 2019’s symposium and beyond would follow a similar trend. I would highly recommend participation in this event.